Silencing Politics Doesn’t Keep the Peace


The American flag waving in the wind. Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels, Free to Use.

In his inaugural address, President Biden called for national unity and to “set aside politics.” Upon hearing his words, I leaned forward in my chair and looked up to the ceiling, wanting to envision a truly united America, but I just couldn’t. 

In today’s political climate, unification seems impossible. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 90% of Democrats and Republicans believe that there are “very strong/strong conflicts” between “people who support different political parties” in our country. And a 2014 Pew study shows that 27% of Democrats believe that the Republican Party is a “threat to the nation’s well-being” and 36% of Republicans believe the same about the Democratic Party. But despite this division casting a pall over American unity, there is hope in the art of listening and having conversations. 

It is a common phrase: “Don’t talk about politics.” The rationale behind it is to avoid arguments over differing views. Yes, political conversations can turn into yelling matches, which is why it is vital to discern the appropriate time and place to respectfully talk politics. But if we are creating a culture that discourages all political discussion, how will we ever find the time to listen to one another, unite, and improve our country? 

George Orwell’s 1984 is all about a totalitarian regime that destroys civil discourse and survives on citizens’ fear of having open conversations. Now, seventy years after 1984’s warning, dystopian novels like The Hunger Games operate under a similar premise where power is maintained by silencing dissent. This common thread in such widely-read books should be a sign that open conversations about politics need to start now.

The problem is that many of us are currently unwilling to see past the political divide. Further discouraging civil discourse, dating sites such as Conservatives Only or Liberal Hearts exist so people on the right and the left can avoid having to interact or be friendly with one another. 

 The day after the 2020 presidential election, my high school decided to cancel meetings for the day to allocate time for “post election day processing.” Students were encouraged to meet with the Dean of Students or our school counselor to discuss their feelings about the tension. While I commend my school for being proactive to support our students, it is frustrating that such action was necessary in the first place. Have we really let the climate of political conversations become so divisive that our youth have to stay away from one another on election day? 

And so I leave you with this challenge, no matter your politics: Make an effort to start respectful conversations. This does not mean you have to change your opinion, but listening to an opposing viewpoint will help break down political rivalry so we can hopefully attain what we profess to be an indivisible nation.